The Norwegian Government has announced that it will develop a new national strategy for wellbeing.
Referencing the approach taken by WEGo member New Zealand, the announcement by the Government of Norway states that:
A good life is about much more than financial and material goods
GDP is an insufficient metric for good lives, as it does not say enough about how people feel
There is a need for wellbeing to become a supplementary measure of societal development.
Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie said: “Good quality of life is an important value in itself, but we also know that it strengthens our resilience in the face of stress. Therefore, we need more knowledge about the development of quality of life in different groups so that we even out social differences and create a more health-promoting and fair society.”
Statistics Norway carried out the first national wellbeing survey in 2020, and the results are being used to inform the new wellbeing strategy. Further surveys will be carried out, with the next starting in November 2021.
The Norwegian Government hopes that its new strategy will be “an inspiration for other countries and organisations”.
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By Hannah Ormston, Ben Thurman and Jen Wallace from the Carnegie UK Trust
In 2019, New Zealand made headlines around the world when their government signalled a genuine commitment to improving New Zealanders collective wellbeing through their annual budget. Applauded for being “transformational” and a “world first”, the NZ Treasury outlined their ambitions to measure progress beyond economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product. These indicators failed to capture the complexity of individual lives and, as NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “do not guarantee improvement to living standards” or “take into account who benefits and who is left out”.
Yet, as New Zealand announces its spending priorities for the next year, some have expressed disappointment, criticising the government’s lack of progress as well as a diminishing focus on wellbeing for which the NZ budget has become so well known. But are these claims missing the point: that in New Zealand the concept of wellbeing has shifted from something novel, to an approach that’s now embedded within the day- to-day decision making of government?
What makes a ‘wellbeing’ budget?
In his pre-budget speech, Finance Minister Grant Robertson outlined the three main goals for this term of government: continuing to keep New Zealand safe from Covid-19, accelerating recovery, and taking on the generational challenges with the economy and society: in particular focusing on housing affordability, climate change, and children’s wellbeing. These are undoubtedly wellbeing goals.
Sitting within a wider financial strategy, the ‘wellbeing’ specific component of the NZ budget consists of an allocated sum of money set aside to focus on prevention and improving collective wellbeing outcomes; policies and projects that better meet the needs of generations today, whilst also considering the long-term impact on generations to come. Spending from this ‘wellbeing pot’ is informed by a range of data that’s collected in a purpose built framework: the Living Standards Framework. It includes 12 areas of life that the government believe are critical for wellbeing, such as health; housing; social connections; and cultural identity.
Each year, the NZ Treasury uses the data in the Living Standards Framework to understand the issues that pose the biggest threat to wellbeing and inform decisions about where they should spend these funds. A wellbeing government understands that social, environmental, economic and democratic wellbeing have equal importance, and responds flexibly, by directing spending to the most urgent issues. In 2019, they chose to focus on improving mental health, child poverty, and family violence, while in 2020, their focus pivoted to the rapidly changing impact of COVID-19, and its immediate impact on people and communities.
This year, the NZ government’s continued commitment to a wellbeing approach can be seen through the recent amendment to their Public Finance Act. The Act now makes provision for the Minister of Finance to set wellbeing objectives to guide budget decisions. For the 2021 budget, the NZ Treasury has decided to focus its attention on the following objectives:
2. Enhancing productivity and enabling New Zealanders to benefit from the future of work;
3. Improving social and economic outcomes within Maori and pacific incomes, skills and opportunities;
4. Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing; and
5. Supporting physical and mental wellbeing for all, including keeping COVID-19 out of communities.
When assessing new policy and project proposals, their contribution to each of the above priorities is considered alongside their value for money, which is based on an assessment of their contribution to the wellbeing domains in the Living Standards Framework.
The priorities outlined in the 2021 recovery and wellbeing budget far from suggest a ‘move away’ from wellbeing. Rather, they show that their approach is holistic, and balances the health, wealth, and wellbeing of current and future generations in equal measure. It demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of individual and collective lives, and that recovery from COVID-19 and collective wellbeing are not mutually exclusive.
And while 20 May marks the next wellbeing budget announcement in New Zealand, in the UK, exciting new legislation, which shares the ambition to embed wellbeing in policymaking for current and future generations, will receive its first reading in the new parliamentary session in the House of Lords. At the Carnegie UK Trust, we work to improve the wellbeing of people in the UK and Ireland, recently publishing ‘Gross Domestic Wellbeing’ as an alternative measure of social progress in England: so we’re clear that ensuring we all have what we need to live well now, and in the future, should be the ambition of any government. This could be an important moment as the UK takes its first steps towards doing just that.
https://weall.org/wp-content/uploads/gigin-krishnan-7mDu7zT0JVs-unsplash-scaled.jpg14402560lisahttps://wellbeingeconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/WEAll-logo-300x119.pnglisa2021-05-19 15:57:462021-05-19 16:53:16Two sides of the same coin: New Zealand’s 2021 ‘recovery’ and ‘wellbeing’ Budget
Kia ora! I’m Suzy Morrissey, one of the founders of the Aoteraroa New Zealand WEAll hub, and I recently gave ‘evidence’ to a special meeting of the UK All Party Parliamentary Committee (APPG) on the Green New Deal and the APPG on Limits to Growth.
The Green New Deal APPG was established to provide a cross-party platform for the development of a transformative Green New Deal for the UK and the Limits to Growth APPG is a platform for cross-party collaboration on shared and lasting prosperity in a world of environmental, social and economic limits. The APPG members are MPs and Peers and the session was chaired by Caroline Lucas MP and Clive Lewis MP.
I was invited to present ‘evidence’ for the consideration of the members of the APPGs ahead of the UK budget announcement, along with Lord Adair Turner (Institute for New Economic Thinking), Miatta Fahnbulleh (New Economics Foundation), and Robert Palmer (Tax Justice UK). The virtual session was also open to the public and over 100 people participated in the session.
In my evidence, I explained the limitations of using GDP to measure wellbeing, outlining how it ignores important elements and rewards negative behaviors. For example, unpaid work is not included in the calculation of GDP, but the sales of weapons are. Further, no adjustment is made for activities that negatively impact the planet, such as pollution or non-recyclable waste.
I also shared an example of an alternative approach from Aoteraroa New Zealand. The ‘Living Standards Framework’ measures wellbeing, using a stocks and flows based economic model, and a dashboard of elements. It draws on the OECD’s Better Life Index, with domains of current wellbeing (such as income, health, housing), and four capitals (natural, social, human, and financial and physical). The Living Standards Framework was devised by the NZ Treasury, to improve the quality of its advice, and provide a focus on inter-generational equity.
Shortly after the Labour-led coalition Government came into power at the end of 2017, they announced their intention to use the Living Standards Framework as a base for the world’s first ‘Wellbeing Budget’ in 2019, as well as to inform the 2018 Budget.
I worked at the NZ Treasury as Principal Advisor in the Office of the Chief Economic Advisor and was the policy and engagement lead for the Living Standards Framework. I shared my experience of determining the current wellbeing domains and capitals and finding suitable indicators to measure them . For example, although much of the Living Standards Framework draws from the OECD Better Life Model, we decided to include a new domain of current wellbeing called ‘cultural identity’ to measure features unique to Aotearoa (such as use of Te Reo Māori, the language of our first people). We also included ‘time use’ because it is so important, especially for gender analysis, even though it had been ten years since a national time use survey had been conducted by Stats NZ. Data gaps need to be highlighted so that they can be addressed.
I also discussed how the Living Standards Framework was applied by government to identify priority areas for the budget and to assess potential policies for funding. An initial assessment of wellbeing was undertaken using the measures and then ‘bids’ for funding from the national budget were assessed against the domains and capitals they were intended to improve.
I was delighted to be able to share Aoteraroa New Zealand’s world-leading work in bringing wellbeing economics to public policy.
Now my focus is back on building the Aoteraroa New Zealand WEAll hub and sharing the wonderful WEAll resources for policy makers and businesses on how to create a wellbeing economy. Contact myself, Paul, or Justin (emails on the Hub page here) if you would like to get involved.
You can watch the full APPG session below or on YouTube here:
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Laura Sharples said that she launched this petition campaign because “the economy is really about stories, but the mainstream narratives at the moment work to disempower us by disconnecting us from our communities and nature.
“The economy has been designed – and it can and must be redesigned.”
Caroline Lucas urged people to support the petition, saying: “The window of opportunity is open. That’s the exciting thing – we have a real chance for a fundamental economic reset.”
Katherine Trebeck affirmed this, saying: “This petition is so incredibly important. If we can get it to 10,000, or 100,000 signatures, it demonstrates to Government that there’s demand there, that this is what people want and they can be on the right side of history.”
The petition states:
“We urgently need the Government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of people and planet, by pursuing a Wellbeing Economy approach. To deliver a sustainable and equitable recovery, the Treasury should target social and environmental goals, rather than fixating on short-term profit and growth.More details
A narrow focus on GDP growth has led us to environmental, health and financial crises. The UK is the 6th largest economy in the world, yet roughly a third of our children live in poverty. Two thirds of the public want the Treasury to put wellbeing above growth. Scotland and Wales are already part of the Wellbeing Economy Governments alliance. As host of the COP26 climate summit, the UK Government should build and champion a Wellbeing Economy – at home and globally.”
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A major report published this week calls for the Scottish Government to introduce wellbeing budgeting to improve lives for children as part of a radical systems change in the wake of the coronavirus.
The new report, Being Bold: Building Budgets for Children’s Wellbeing, by WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead Dr Katherine Trebeck, with Amy Baker, was commissioned by national charity Children in Scotland, early years funder Cattanach and the Carnegie UK Trust.
It makes a series of bold calls focused on redirecting finances to tackling root causes of inequality and poverty as Scotland emerges from Covid. Key recommendations include:
A post-Covid spending review, with all spend proposals assessed against evidence of impact on children’s wellbeing
Training of the civil service to ensure effective budget development and analysis, and moving to multi-year budgeting aligned with wellbeing goals
Establishing an independent agency, modeled on the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, to support activity and scrutinise effectiveness of delivery of wellbeing budgeting by the government
An overarching change to the ways of working in the Scottish Government budget process to ingrain greater transparency; cross-departmental working; and a participatory approach involving the public and the diversity of children’s voices.
The report argues that the Scottish Government’s stated aims of improving wellbeing across society and addressing the fact that one quarter of children live in relative poverty cannot be met unless we create conditions for our youngest children to be healthy and supported from the outset.
To do this, it makes the case for directing funds at root causes that diminish child wellbeing, rather than targeting symptoms ‘downstream’, which is inefficient, stifles implementation of policy and legislation, and slows ambitions for societal change.
First steps towards wellbeing budgets would involve holding a conversation with the public about budget-setting to absorb lived experience; interrogating data to ‘map’ the distribution of wellbeing in Scotland; and ensuring policy development was properly connected to evidence on what would actually change outcomes for children and addressing the root causes of what undermines their wellbeing.
The report’s lead author, Dr Katherine Trebeck, said:
“If the Scottish budget is to be a mechanism that brings about change, we need to create a context where children can flourish in Scotland. Then we need to think about a few fundamentals. The budget needs to be holistic, human, outcomes-oriented, and rights-based. It needs to be long-term, upstream, preventative and precautionary. Finally, a bold budget for children’s wellbeing needs to be participatory – children’s voices in all their diversity need to be at the heart of setting the budget agenda.”
Katherine speaks about the report in more detail in this short video:
Sophie Flemig, Chief Executive of Cattanach, said:
“This report shows why it is necessary to set out a high-level vision for wellbeing outcomes and hardwire it into government processes. Countries need to acknowledge that the economy is in service of wellbeing goals, not a goal in and of itself. Meaningful public involvement is key. Ministerial responsibility for wellbeing outcomes drives progress. And cross-departmental work is essential for success.”
Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy at Carnegie UK Trust, said:
“This project has focused on one important lever of change – the finance system, the way that we think about money and spend in Scotland, asking: what is value for money when we’re talking about our children’s lives? We know it’s not a silver bullet, but we do think it’s important that we consider how we spend that money if we’re going to begin improving outcomes for children and putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to children’s wellbeing.”
As the election campaign approaches, and following Tuesday’s vote to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law, the report’s calls and the case for wellbeing budgeting informs Children in Scotland’s manifesto for 2021-26, backed by organisations across the children’s sector.
The report is published as Scotland takes stock of the damage the pandemic has done to individuals, families, communities, and the macroeconomy, and an increasing number of people recognise that we must not revert to pre-Covid ways of working.
Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said:
“Now is the time for us to reset our economy and the way in which we prioritise our budgets. Katherine’s work gives us a real manifesto for how we will secure children’s rights and wellbeing. We call on you to read the report, particularly the section which identifies what the crucial next steps are. We don’t need any more research or evidence – we need to work together to put a budget for Scotland’s children into place, this year, and we look forward to working with you to make that happen.”
And it owns other popular platforms like Instagram and Whatsapp.
With this much power, tech is no longer just a ‘tech issue’. It’s a societal and economic issue!
Serving the common good?
“We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings.”
In reading about these issues, you have to wonder:
Is Facebook serving the common good? 👀
It all comes down to the business model.
As a vehicle for creativity and innovation, business is a key player in creating the solutions we need to deliver social justice on a healthy planet. But in our current system, finance and the economy tend to serve themselves, rather than serving society and the environment. 👎
“Today, society and the environment are serving business, when business needs to be the servant of society.”
Martin Rich, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Future Fit
Since economist Milton Friedman declared that “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” in a 1970 New York Times op-ed, the ideal of ‘profit maximisation’ and continual growth to increase shareholder value has become the dominant model for how businesses operate. This often means deprioritising the interests of others stakeholders.
This seems to be true in the case of Facebook.
As Alan Woodward, a computer scientist at the University of Surrey, explains,
“Facebook openly says that their business model is to use data related to users for profit.”
This explains why we can use social media platforms for ‘free’. This makes logical sense. How else would they make money? 🤷♀️
This raises a foundational question:
If Facebook’s primary goal and business model was not centred around growth and profit maximisation, how might it approach issues of data privacy and digital safety? 🤔
Social Media in a Wellbeing Economy
“If a business is designed to maximise financial return, delivering environmental and social return as well, is inevitably a cost on the bottom line and competes with the financial return. However, if a business is designed to deliver environmental and social return as well as financial, it enhances rather than competes with financial return.”
Hugo Spowers, Chief Engineer and Founder of Riversimple
To see business playing a key role in the shift toward a Wellbeing Economy (where the economy serves society as its core purpose), they must embody the principles of ‘Wellbeing Businesses”. These include:
Connection – a corporate culture that aligns the organisational purpose with collective values. 🙏
Dignity – a business model that creates the means for employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to live with dignity. ✊
Participation – balanced and values-based relationships with all stakeholders. 🤝
Olga Koretskaya and Gus Grosenbaugh explain that, to put these principles of care and responsibility into practice, Wellbeing Businesses work to:
1. Ensure transparency and accountability 🔍
When multinational corporations work across multiple regional and regulatory borders, it often leads to a lack of transparency and accountability.
“Listed companies are in effect owned by nobody, because everybody does. The result is a lack of responsibility.”
Martin Rich, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Future Fit
Wellbeing Businesses recognise the importance of transparency and disclose data about environmental, social, and economic performance to all employees and the public in a way that is easy to retrieve and understand, across the entire supply chain or footprint of the organisation.
2. Internalise externalities 🤓
A “negative externality” in business or industry is something that the business makes or produces, that negatively affects other people or the environment, and for which the business does not pay and is not reflected in the price. Wellbeing Businesses don’t ignore these “externalities” – they take responsibility for them and embrace different strategies for avoiding, reducing, or paying for harm.
Here are 10 proposals for concrete actions that tech companies like Facebook and governments can take to prevent social media platforms from damaging democracy, spreading hate, or inciting violence.
3. Evolve toward stewardship
As a business grows and occupies a new role in the market, Wellbeing businesses evolve toward a model of stewardship, so that a range of stakeholders have a say in the business decisions that affect them. Riversimple, an eco car company, demonstrates one way to do this. Their governance model includes representatives of 6 different stakeholder groups: The Environment, Customers, Communities, Staff, Investors and Commercial Partners.
Do I have a choice?
I know what you’re thinking – all of that is well and good, but what can I do about these issues around social media today?
In our own work, WEAll still has to use some social media as it helps us spread the messages of a Wellbeing Economy to global audiences. But while it may not be possible to fully step away from social media, we can start to take steps to reduce our participation in some of the harm these platforms cause (and hold them accountable to make changes!). 💪
“After careful consideration WEAll has come to the conclusion, shared by countless others, that Facebook is no longer a platform we want to engage with. We feel that to be actively present is to be complicit. Therefore, we will keep our page open – but will no longer be actively engaging with it. While we still as a team rely on WhatsApp and as an organization use Instagram – this is the first step to move away from these predatory platforms.”
WEAll message on our Facebook page
WEAll supports the #StopHateForProfit campaign, which calls for changes needed, including preventing lies in political ads, closing down groups that are associated with violence, and allowing victims of severe harassment to immediately reach a live Facebook representative for help.
Believe it or not, social media platforms like Facebook are not our only options to stay connected. 🙌
For example, if you’re looking to connect and collaborate with like minded changemakers in the movement toward a Wellbeing Economy, the WEAll Citizens platform is a great option.
With over 2200 active users daily and at least 30 new members joining each week, Citizens is a thriving space to connect and feel a sense of belonging – minus any advertisements. 😉
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Over the last 24 hours, like everyone else, I’ve cycled through an overwhelming series of emotions: disbelief, frustration, anger, helplessness, sadness, dread.
I felt especially sad because, while yesterday’s violent acts of white supremacy in Washington D.C. are news, white supremacy and the institutional and systemic racism1 that enables it, is far from new.
This past year has been a reckoning in the face of racial injustice and police violence. These systemic issues aren’t going away just because 2020 is over.
At the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), we are working with a global network to bring about a Wellbeing Economy, an economy2 that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.
I’ll speak to the situation in North America. We are not there yet. There is still so much work to be done.
I had to go out for a walk to clear my head. As I trudged through the snow, I kept asking myself,
“Where do we go from here? Where do we even start?”
I don’t have all the answers (does anyone?!) But here’s what I do know.
1. Protect your mental health.
As I walked, I had to remind myself: does my frustration, on its own, help anyone? No. If we are to effectively deal with societal issues that are upsetting and exhausting, we’re going to need to protect our mental health. In the wise words of Oprah,
“Your real work is to figure out where your power base is. And to work on the alignment of your gifts that you have to give with the real reason why you’re here. The number one thing you have to do, is to work on yourself…and to fill yourself up, and keep your cup full.”
In short: You can only give or contribute to positive change if ‘your cup runneth over’. Honour yourself.
Breathe deeply, get some fresh air, talk to a friend, listen to music, dance to shake it off.
Today, I did all of the above.
2. Support organisations doing the work.
The social justice and environmental crises we face are multidimensional and interconnected. We don’t have to look any further than the COVID-19 crisis to see this. Indigenous and racialised communities are not only disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, but also by environmental issues, the effects of climate change, and poverty – and these issues reinforce one another. And since these issues are all interconnected, your support for organisations working to address any of them, is helping (as long as we hold them accountable to take an intersectional approach).
Once I’d had enough of reading and watching videos of yesterday’s riot on Instagram, I started to google social justice organisations I could donate to. Here’s a good list of Canadian social justice organisations I found.
Not everyone has the privilege to be able to donate. And even if you do, you may not have a lot that you are able to give. But if you can, even donating $5 is still $5that is flowing in to help move forward the change we need.
“Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something, anything.”
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Author and Animal Activist
Halfway through my walk, I remembered this excerpt from the Living Hyphen team’s anti-racism statement:
“We are committed to continuously (un)learning our role and responsibility in […] dismantling the mentality of white supremacy that exists as a result of this colonisation.”
Institutional racism in our economic, legal, and political systems is tied to power imbalances rooted in colonialism and capitalism. Before we can reimagine more equitable institutions and systems, we have to understand and acknowledge the impacts of colonialism that continue to exist today.
“Can we celebrate our communities’ achievements while also interrogating and rising up against the systems that led us here? How can we hold all these truths at once?”
While this felt like a heavy thought, it was also an empowering one. If I have a role to play in enabling or challenging systemic racism, I am not helpless to its effects. And I can get started right in my own small social circle.
With all of this in mind, I finished my walk feeling a little lighter and with a new emotion: resolve.
“Revolutions do not happen only in grand moments in public view but also in small pockets of people coming together to inhabit a new way of being. We birth the beloved community by becoming the beloved community.”
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